The Medford City Council Tuesday narrowly approved a non-binding vote of no confidence in the Medford Housing Authority's Executive Director Robert Covelle.
The vote serves as a symbol of the city legislative body's lost faith in Covelle, who has been under scrutiny since a federal audit showed the authority paid out contracts to vendors without competitive bidding and failed to follow federal guidelines in distributing over $7 million in federal funding.
It was approved 4-3, after a resolution calling for the authority's board of commissioners to fire Covelle failed 3-4. The housing authority is autonomous from the city's government and the vote does not mandate any action.
According to a report in Tuesday's Boston Globe, Covelle suspended employees who raised questions over the hiring of certain contractors, hired a close friend to be the authority's section 8 supervisor, and paid $4,000 to a woman who later married his son to decorate the authority's office.
Last week, the council voted down a measure calling for the firing of Covelle 2-5. City Councilor Robert Penta brought that measure forward again Tuesday in light of the information in the Globe report, he said.
"(Covelle) has boldly acted in an inexcusable breach of public trust,” Penta said Tuesday. "...Before it gets any worse, I think we ought to just nip it in the butt right now."
That resolution failed with Penta, Breanna Lungo-Koehn and Michael Marks supporting it and Paul Camuso, Rick Caraviello, Robert Maiocco and Fred Dello Russo opposing.
Marks voted against the resolution last week because he wanted to wait until the authority responded to the audit, which they are expected to do by the end of the month. But he changed his mind after reading about Covelle's alleged favoritism, he said.
After the vote calling for Covelle's firing failed, Lungo-Koehn called for a resolution to vote no confidence in Covelle.
"It seems like cult mob-ish activity,” she said of the reported behavior of the authority.
Caraviello said he voted against the first measure because the council didn't have the authority to fire Covelle, but he approved of the vote of no confidence.
The councilors who opposed the no confidence vote said they wanted to allow the on-going process of the audit and other investigations play out.
“I am gravely concerned about this, but it's also in a process,” Dello Russo said.
During a meeting last week authority commission members said they were subpoenaed by a grand jury in an investigation into undisclosed matters, and state police have taken computers and files from the authority's offices. But no criminal charges or indictments have been handed down.
The housing authority's commissioners are expected to meet at 121 Riverside Ave. Wednesday night.